Christmas Delivered by the Military in Winnipeg

Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) : Almost 300 Winnipeg families received a welcome surprise when the military came knocking at their door on Saturday.

More than 40 soldiers from the Fort Garry Horse army reserve spent the day helping out the Christmas Cheer Board by delivering hampers to homes across the city.

Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of Exercise PARCEL PUSH, which began in 1984 in commemoration of the Cheer Board's ties with the military.

The Cheer Board was started by a group of Winnipeg churches in 1919, who would would hand out hampers to First World War widows and orphans.

This year, Master Corporal Draper Houston said they were able to nearly triple the amount of hampers they delivered, thanks to a cargo vehicle provided by the 31 Field Engineer Squadron provided a cargo vehicle. This allowed them to create a distribution point at their armory so they saved time and were able to move out the hampers quicker.

Houston says it is quite a surprise for families when they open the door to find members of the Canadian Armed Forces standing there.

"Initially everyone is really surprised as to why the military is coming to their door, but once we introduce ourselves and what we are there for, everyone is extremely grateful," he said. "People want to take pictures and the children are always happy to see presents come to the door."

Families in need were given a basket filled with wrapped gifts, a turkey and other holiday foods, after filling out an application to the Christmas Cheer Board.

"Some of the families request a call before we show up, but for the most part they don't know we are coming, so it is always a big surprise," he said. "It makes all the troops feel good and I know from the ones (soldiers) who have come back so far are saying they are feeling good about the day and that it is always nice to bring some Christmas cheer to disadvantaged families."

Lieutenant Eric Watters spent his morning helping to organize the hampers and get them out to families.

"We like to give back to the community, we are soldiers but we are also from the community too. A lot of us live in the North End, so it always good to give back when you can and not be a stranger to the community," he said Saturday.

"A lot of the time people see the military as being a scary organization, but we are here to protect Canadians, so we like to help them out whenever possible, whether it is flood-fighting or hamper delivery."

[Courtesy: KRISTIN ANNABLE, WINNIPEG SUN]